Types of Engineered Hardwood Flooring: 101 Ultimate Guide

Engineered hardwood flooring has become increasingly popular thanks to its versatility, affordability, and impressive performance. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the various types and subtypes of engineered hardwood flooring, helping you make informed decisions when choosing the perfect floor for your home.

When it comes to engineered hardwood, there is a wide range of options to consider, each bringing its unique characteristics and benefits. From the choice of wood species to the various construction methods, understanding the distinctions between each type and subtype is crucial for selecting a high-quality and durable flooring solution that meets your specific needs and preferences.

Types of Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring comes in a variety of types, each offering unique features and benefits. The main types can be categorized based on the construction material and the structural composition of the flooring.

The most common types of engineered hardwood flooring include:

  • Plywood Core: This type consists of a plywood base that is topped with a layer of real hardwood. It offers excellent stability and is more affordable than other types. The price range for plywood core engineered hardwood is typically $3 to $5 per square foot.
  • High-Density Fiberboard (HDF) Core: HDF core engineered hardwood features a high-density fiberboard base, which is covered with a hardwood layer. This type provides better moisture resistance and is suitable for areas with high humidity. The price range for HDF core engineered hardwood is around $4 to $7 per square foot.
  • Multi-Ply Construction: Multi-ply engineered hardwood flooring has several layers of plywood or fiberboard, topped with a layer of hardwood. It offers excellent stability and durability, making it suitable for commercial environments. The price range for multi-ply engineered hardwood is generally $4 to $8 per square foot.

Further, there are specific sub-types based on the preferred finishing:

  1. Pre-finished: This type comes with a factory-applied finish, which ensures consistent quality and protection. It requires no additional sanding or finishing.
  2. Unfinished: Unfinished engineered hardwood allows for customization in terms of color and finish. It requires sanding and finishing after installation, which may increase the overall cost.

All these types and sub-types offer different levels of durability, aesthetics, and comfort, giving homeowners a variety of options when choosing engineered hardwood flooring for their homes.

Composition and Layers

Engineered hardwood flooring is composed of multiple layers that lend to its durability and versatility. This section will talk about the composition and layers of engineered hardwood flooring, which are the top layer, core layer, and backing layer.

Top Layer

The top layer, also known as the wear layer or veneer, is a thin layer of real hardwood. It can range from 0.6mm to 6mm in thickness, with thicker layers providing better longevity and the option to refinish the floor multiple times. The typical thicknesses for the top layer are:

  • 0.6mm – 2mm: Basic quality, lower cost
  • 2mm – 4mm: Good quality, mid-range cost
  • 4mm – 6mm: Premium quality, higher cost

Prices vary depending on the species of wood used for the top layer.

Core Layer

The core layer, usually made of high-density fiberboard (HDF), plywood, or other engineered wood products, provides stability and support to the floor. It can vary in thickness, with thicker layers offering greater dimensional stability. The composition of the core layer may include:

HDFStrong, stable, and resistant to moisture
PlywoodFlexible, stable, and resistant to warping and bowing
Other engineered wood productsVarying characteristics depending on material used

Backing Layer

The backing layer is the bottom layer of the engineered hardwood floor. Its primary function is to offer additional stability and moisture resistance. The backing layer is often made of a thin layer of hardwood or hardwood plywood.

Some premium engineered hardwood products have a thicker backing layer, further enhancing the floor’s stability and performance. Thicker backing layers generally come at a higher price point.

Wood Species

Engineered hardwood flooring is available in a variety of wood species, each offering its own unique characteristics and qualities. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most popular wood species for engineered hardwood flooring, their distinct features, and typical price ranges.

Wood SpeciesCharacteristicsPrice Range (per sq. ft.)
OakKnown for its durability and dense grain patterns, oak offers a classic look suitable for various design styles. Available in red and white oak varieties.$3 – $10
MapleMaple engineered hardwood is popular for its light color and modern appearance. It has a smooth grain pattern, making it ideal for contemporary spaces.$4 – $12
HickoryHickory boasts a unique, rustic aesthetic with varying shades and distinct grain patterns. It is also known for its incredible hardness and durability.$5 – $14
BambooThough not a traditional hardwood, bamboo is an eco-friendly and sustainable option with a unique appearance. It offers excellent durability and stability.$4 – $9
WalnutWalnut engineered hardwood features rich, dark tones and elegant grain patterns. It adds a warm, luxurious touch to any interior space.$6 – $15

Please note that these price ranges are subject to various factors, such as plank thickness, finish options, and brand.

Additionally, each wood species can be further categorized into different grades, which indicate the level of visible imperfections, such as knots and color variations. This will also influence the overall cost and appearance of the engineered hardwood.

Finishes and Textures

Engineered hardwood flooring can be customized in many ways, including the type of finish and texture applied to the wood’s surface. In this section, we will explore prefinished and unfinished options, surface textures, and edge profiles.

Prefinished vs Unfinished

Prefinished engineered hardwood floors come with a factory-applied finish, usually consisting of multiple layers of protection. These finishes often require little to no maintenance and are designed to last for years. Prefinished floors are typically easier and quicker to install, as the finishing process is already completed.

Unfinished engineered hardwood floors are sanded and finished on-site. This option allows for a more customized appearance, as the homeowner can choose the specific finish and color they desire. However, unfinished floors require more time and labor to install, and may need periodic maintenance depending on the chosen finish.

Surface Textures

There are several surface textures available for engineered hardwood flooring to suit different preferences and styles. Here are a few common options:

  • Smooth: A classic, sleek appearance with minimal texture.
  • Hand-scraped: Mimics the look of handcrafted, artisanal wood flooring.
  • Wire-brushed: Enhances the natural wood grain by removing the soft layers and emphasizing the harder grain lines.
  • Distressed: Replicates the appearance of aged, antique wood with intentional imperfections and markings.

Edge Profiles

Edge profiles affect how the planks fit and lock together, as well as the overall appearance of the installed flooring. Some popular options include:

  • Beveled: Features a slightly angled edge, creating a v-shaped groove between planks.
  • Microbeveled: A subtler bevel, offering a less pronounced groove between planks.
  • Square edge: Planks fit seamlessly together, creating an even, uniform surface.

The prices for engineered hardwood flooring can vary depending on the selected finishes and textures. Generally, prices range from $3 to $10 per square foot and may be influenced by factors such as manufacturer, design, and installation costs.

Installation Methods

There are three primary methods to install engineered hardwood flooring, each with its own advantages and considerations. In this section, we’ll discuss floating, glue-down, and nail or staple-down installation methods.


The floating installation method involves interlocking the planks together without attaching them to the subfloor. This method is popular because it’s less labor-intensive and can be more affordable than other methods.

  • Easy installation, ideal for DIY projects
  • Suitable for various subfloor materials
  • Price range: $2 – $5 per square foot

Glue Down

The glue-down method requires the use of adhesive to secure the engineered hardwood planks to the subfloor. This method offers a more stable floor, but it can be more time-consuming and costly.

Provides a stable and secure floorRequires more time and effort
Compatible with radiant heating systemsHigher cost compared to floating method

Price range: $4 – $8 per square foot

Nail or Staple Down

The nail or staple-down method involves securing the engineered hardwood flooring to the subfloor using nails or staples. This method provides a solid feel underfoot, but it’s not suitable for all subfloor materials and might be difficult for DIY installations.

  • Provides a solid feel underfoot
  • Not suitable for all subfloor materials
  • Price range: $3 – $6 per square foot

Budget and Cost Considerations

When considering engineered hardwood flooring, it’s essential to understand the various factors that influence cost. This will help you make an informed decision while sticking to your budget.

Some important elements affecting price include:

  • Wood species: Exotic woods like Brazilian Cherry may come with a premium price, while commonly available species like Oak and Maple are more budget-friendly.
  • Finish: Pre-finished engineered hardwood tends to be more expensive than unfinished options, but it saves time and labor during installation.
  • Thickness: Thicker planks generally cost more, but offer increased durability and longer lifespan.
  • Installation method: Nail-down and glue-down installation methods are less expensive than floating floor systems with click-lock features.

A general price range for engineered hardwood flooring can be anywhere from $3 to $15 per square foot, depending on the factors listed above.

Wood SpeciesPrice Range (per sq. ft.)
Oak$3 – $5
Maple$4 – $6
Brazilian Cherry$7 – $15

In addition to the cost of materials, consider the labor charges for installation, which typically range from $3 to $8 per square foot. It’s always best to gather multiple quotes from professionals to compare pricing and services.

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